The 1972 Triumph GT6 was my first real car. I say, “real” because it was the first car that I bought with my own money and for which I was completely responsible. Up until I bought this car I was tooling around in Dad’s 1970 VW Bus. A great car, but it wasn’t mine.
I purchased the car when I was 16 from a guy who wasn’t a very good mechanic. I paid $800 cash and roared out of his driveway like a 16–year–old in his first car. On the way home I noticed strange behavior from folks in other cars. I would put on my left turn signal and people would pass me on the left. I’d put on my right signal and people would pass me on the right. It wasn’t until I turned on the lights and the radio came on that I realized I had electrical problems. Thus the beginnings of my education in the intricacies of British motor car technology.
The electrical system wasn’t actually too bad. The previous owner had just crossed some wires, and they needed to be corrected. That only took a day or two and a few blown fuses. The real challenges of this car came with trying to keep it tuned up. The GT6 is based on the Jaguar with a very big front engine, delivering more power than this little car ever needed. The 6–cylinder engine was fed by two Strombergh carbs. They were simple enough devices, but getting them to work in concert and get the timing right on all cylinders was a major challenge.
One saving grace of this car was the fact that the engine cover lifted forward — exposing the entire engine and drive train. You could sit comfortably on the front tire and work on the car for hours, which was needed every few days. I know the British must love to work on cars because they build them in such a way that one must work on them constantly to keep them running.
The car was a joy for me because it was fun to drive and I learned a tremendous amount about the workings of the car. However, being 16 and underemployed, it was a challenge to keep the car serviced properly. This shortcoming was driven home by the increasing wear on the front suspension. The motor in this car was so heavy that it was slowly destroying the suspension, which I did not have the financial or technical ability to service properly. My plan was good luck and, of course, superb driving skills (as all 16–year–old drivers have in abundance). Those skills were sorely tested in the time I owned that car. I count no less than 10 harrowing, life–flashing–before–your–eyes incidents in that car, mostly because the front suspension could not react to turns and dips. It could handle one or the other, but not both.
Eventually all my friends found excuses not to ride with me. The final straw was when my girlfriend kept asking me if we could borrow my parents Ford Fairmount instead of my wheels. I knew that a better place awaited my little buggy so I put it up for sale. I sold it for $400 to a Triumph mechanic and promptly bought an MG Midget. But that’s another story.